“Unforeseen and Unpredictable: China’s Population Reaches its Pinnacle and Experiences a Decline – Implications and Uncertainties for Africa”

The epochal transition of China losing its title as the “world’s most populous country” speaks to underlying demographic shifts worldwide. Africa, with its fastest growing population, is set to become the largest market. As a researcher of China’s economy and China-Africa relations for nearly two decades, I have specifically analyzed the political economy of demographic change in China and its repercussions for African countries. While China’s declining population may seem insignificant to African nations, my latest paper highlights the potential opportunities and risks that countries must navigate.

China has been a leading economic partner for Africa, particularly for resource-rich countries like Angola and Zambia whose economies rely on commodity exports to China. A slowdown in China’s economy or a shift away from commodity-intensive production could challenge African commodity exporters. The decline in China’s population also has direct impacts on African countries who could benefit from the end of China’s period of labor glut. Labor-rich countries like Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Vietnam are already knocking on China’s door, offering Africa new competition. Still, African countries could take advantage of China’s pivot to services such as financial services, healthcare, and tourism.

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However, the retirement population is expected to peak in China by the middle of the century, causing China’s economic development engine to falter. This would slow China’s potential to trade and invest in Africa, leaving many African countries dependent on China for growth and development vulnerable. African nations should be wary of this demographic shift and seek to exploit all potential opportunities while mitigating any risks. Africa is the world’s youngest continent, and the rapidly aging population decline in China is the continent’s most important trade and economic partner.

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